Jewelle Gomez: Don’t Explain (1998) Firebrand Books
Don’t Explain is a collection of short stories by Black lesbian author, activist, and philanthropist Jewelle Gomez. In fact, it was the first collection of Black lesbian fiction I read in graduate school. Most widely known for her Black lesbian vampire novel The Gilda Stories, with Don’t Explain Gomez employs rich, sensual language to introduce her readers to several carefully constructed characters that set our minds and bodies afire.
For example, “Water With the Wine” is a new take on an old trope, the May-December romance. Gomez carefully deconstructs the most commonly held notions about this type of romance, and posits another reality for the women in her story. Her two main characters meet and become involved at an academic conference; however, differences in age, class and race threaten to destroy their budding relationship. Gomez deals sensitively and honestly with these issues and deepens our understanding of what it means to fall in love after the blossom of youth.
In “Lynx and Strand,” the longest story in the collection, Gomez forays into speculative fiction, (not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, but an imaginative blend of the two genres), and explores what it means to live in a future where same-sex relationships are still policed by the state. Here, Gomez tackles issues of futuristic state governments, homophobia, body art, and what it means to truly become one with your partner.
For those familiar with Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, Don’t Explain offers a new chapter into the life of her lesbian vampire and offers a provocative look at what it means to be human when you actually aren’t human at all.
All of the stories in this collection are sensitive, sensual and offer a pleasant alternative to “mainstream” lesbian fictions. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read any of Jewelle Gomez’s work, start with this collection and I’m certain that you’ll want to read more!